Hāna Highway Checkpoint Remains in Place Today as County Awaits Governor’s Response
By Wendy Osher
Mayor Victorino is still awaiting a response from the Governor regarding his request for an extension of traffic limitations on the Hāna Highway through East Maui, citing ongoing health and safety concerns related to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Department of transportation had planned to reopen the road today, following completion of critical repair projects that were conducted between Kaupakalua Road and Hāna Town.
County officials say the checkpoint will remain in place for today while they await the governor’s response.
During an afternoon media briefing on Tuesday, Maui Managing Director Sandy Baz said, “We have not received a formal response from the governor yet. The checkpoints will remain in place until we have that definite answer from the governor, but they will remain in place for tomorrow (July 1, 2020).”
On Monday, Mayor Victorino sent a letter to the governor, requesting at least a two week extension on the Hāna Highway road closure between Kapakalua Road and Hāna Town to July 15th, with hopes of an additional extension to the end of July if possible.
He cited health and safety as a concern amid the ongoing COVID-19 crisis, as Hana has no 24-hour medical facility available.
“The concern I have for East Maui is really there is no 24-hour medical facility available to the people that live there; and they’re even limited with the amount of doctors and nurses that live out there. Most of them are part time… I will be sending out five ventilators to the Hana Health Clinic for them to have more available ventilators should something happen out there,” said Mayor Victorino during a media briefing on Monday afternoon.
During an East Maui Zoom meeting hosted by Senator J. Kalani English over the weekend, the Mayor said he would be able to keep the back, county side of the road closed from ʻUlupalakua to Kīpahulu for the interim; but would be seeking approvals from the governor for the state-side closure between Twin Falls and Hāna Town.
Not all want the road closed–some say access should be allowed for all residents, and other business owners in Hāna Town have expressed a desire to reopen to allow for a return of economic opportunities in the small town.
Lawmakers continue to work on a traffic management plan for the Hāna Highway and are proposing a reservation system for key destinations along the highway like Waiʻānapanapa State Park, to mitigate traffic concerns in the rural community.
The checkpoints after Twin Falls on the Hāna Highway at ʻUlupalakua Ranch on Piʻilani Highway, were established in April to provide an added layer of protection to the isolated community amid the COVID-19 pandemic. With reduced traffic during the pandemic, state Transportation crews used the opportunity to complete critical road improvements.
During the closure, discussion of a traffic management plan was raised as lawmakers look for traffic solutions going forward.